11 questions for Manchester Orchestra frontman Andy Hull

On new music, his newborn son, and the band's upcoming Thanksgiving concert, the Stuffing

Manchester Orchestra
From left: drummer Tim Very, lead guitarist Robert McDowell, lead singer Andy Hull, bassist Andy Prince

Photograph courtesy of Chromatic PR

It might have taken a dozen years, but Andy Hull can finally say he’s made it as an Atlanta musician.

As the frontman for Manchester Orchestra, an indie rock band based in Atlanta, this is the first time he’ll be performing as the lead act at the Fox Theatre. On November 21, Manchester Orchestra will perform at the Stuffing, an annual concert in Atlanta that’s held just before the Thanksgiving, which will kick off their month-long tour with The Front Bottoms. The concert series has slowly grown in size, starting in 2010 at Center Stage, selling out the Tabernacle last year, and now moving to the Fox Theatre.

Similarly, Manchester Orchestra has slowly but surely grown in size since their first album was released in 2007—playing at major music festivals such as Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, and Coachella and appearing on late night shows for Jimmy Kimmel, David Letterman, and Conan O’Brien.

Hull also fronts two other bands, Right Away, Great Captain!, a solo project that chronicles a fictional story of 17th century sailor who discovers his wife having an affair with his brother, and Bad Books, an indie rock band with folk rock artist Kevin Devine and other members of Manchester Orchestra. (You can see Bad Books perform at Shaky Knees Music Festival next year.)

We talked to Hull about new music, his newest project Brother Bird, his newborn son, and life in Atlanta.

You have a new project, Brother Bird. How did that come about?
Caroline Swan is an incredible singer/songwriter who I actually found out about in 2001. Somebody sent me a link of her covering a Manchester [Orchestra] song on YouTube when she was like 16 years old. So I had our manager reach out, and I sent her a quick email like, “Hey, you’re amazing, if you ever need any help, let me know, because your voice is just undeniably great.” I’ve kept in touch with her and all that time I’ve been mentoring her. She’s exploded as this songwriting force that we’re stoked to be a part of. Next year we’re going to get in the studio and create the debut LP for it. The five song collection will be finished by the time that we start the tour at the Stuffing.

Tell me about your other projects, Bad Books, Right Away Great Captain—any updates?
Bad Books is finished with a record pretty much, it’s like 90 percent done. We’re going to try and focus on it at the beginning of next year before we go to mixing. I think it’s as far as we can take it, so we might bring it to some other people that we respect and see if they think anything should be added or taken away. And then hopefully we’re going to score a movie next year. The prime focus will be a new Manchester [Orchestra] record and figuring out what that means and how it’s going to be. An impossible year and a half of our lives.

Your last album, Black Mile to the Surface, was centered on family, as you’d just had a daughter at the time. In March, you had a newborn son, River. Will there be a continued family theme?
I’ve written [River] a couple of really cool songs. I’ve finished one of them with some guys in Nashville a few months ago that I might release this year. I wrote it the night before he was born. He was a C-section baby, so I literally knew he was going to be there in 10 hours and I wrote a song called, “This Is It.” I played it for him the next day, hot off the press.

What was his review?
He just shit everywhere. Which is pretty much all they do, so I took it as a positive.

What’s the back story to the Stuffing?
It’s really funny because it was a decision made nine years ago that still happens every year. It just kept getting steadily bigger and we had bigger bands coming in. This year we’re taking it to the Fox, which is a dream come true as an Atlanta kid. Last year we sold out the Tabernacle, which was a really awesome thing to do on year eight. We’re just thrilled with the lineup this year and the fact we get to play in this historic room I’ve been going to since I was a kid. It’s amazing.

You’ve slowly moved up in stage size with the Stuffing—Center Stage, Tabernacle last year, and Fox Theatre this year. Where do you go up from here?
I don’t know [laughs], I’m happy here. Our whole career has been that way—just slow and steady, nothing you can feel in the moment, but you look up and it’s like “Oh yeah, this is still going well.”

Do you notice a difference playing in Atlanta in comparison to other cities?
It’s pretty consistently the best market I would say. Especially the Stuffings every year are just pretty high energy because I think people are stoked that we’re from here and it’s support for the city as well. When we first started out in Atlanta, we had to go tour elsewhere in order to get anybody to pay attention. So 13, 14 years later—it’s really gratifying.

Tell me about your daily life in Atlanta. What are your favorite restaurants?
I don’t have any. I really don’t go out. And I know that sounds like a lie, but I just don’t. I’ve been gone almost every weekend for the last two years, so when I’m home, I’m just sort of in dad zone. I just like it quiet, and it’s just very chill.

Are you interested at all in Atlanta sports?
Yes, I am. I just feel bad for the children. Any time we get close [a victory], I just want to go, “Oh you poor thing, you don’t know what’s going to happen,” [laughs]. [Atlanta teams] consistently just rip my heart out. I’m cold and lifeless towards our sports now, but they still suck me in. We’ll get it back one day—it hasn’t been as long as some cities. And whenever it happens, it’s going to be huge. If I had to choose a team I wish was the best, it would be the Hawks because I’m a really big NBA fan. We’re going to get through it. I think Trae [Young] will be pretty great.

Manchester Orchestra

Photograph courtesy of Chromatic PR

Has having a second child made as much of an impact as the first child? How’s family life at the moment?
Yeah it has, in the coolest way. I said to my wife the other night, “Can you imagine us not having him?” It seems impossible. Seems like it was impossible for him, because we didn’t know how we were going to love somebody else as much, but now it seems equally impossible if he wasn’t here. I’m just loving it, it’s the happiest part of my life. Just trying to do a good job and provide for him. I’m excited for next year being more of a year of creativity and working where I can be closer to home, doing stuff at the studio but still able to come back home.

Any other tours expected beyond this one?
Not a thing. This is the last tour for a while, so it’s sort of like, put your head down, go kick ass, come home, and feel proud of what we’ve accomplished. And start it all over again.

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